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The Cost of Workers Who Call In Sick

Christina Medici Scolaro
Big Data Download

The annual cost of lost productivity due to absenteeism tied to poor health varies greatly from occupation to occupation, but every time an employee takes a sick day the result is hundreds of dollars in costs to the employer, according to a survey conducted by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

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The survey, which polled 94,000 workers across 14 major U.S. occupations, found that the total yearly bill for lost productivity due to workers having a history of chronic conditions is $84 billion. Chronic health conditions in this analysis are defined as afflicting anyone who’s been diagnosed with a heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, asthma, or depression. It also includes being overweight or obese. Across the 14 categories surveyed, 77 percent of workers fit the survey’s description of having a chronic health condition.

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For all workers in those groups, the estimated cost of calling out sick is $341 per day.

Eighty-six percent of transportation workers report having subpar health, making them the least healthy of all professionals surveyed. However, being the least healthy doesn’t mean it costs the most to employers. Absenteeism costs the transportation industry an estimated $3.5 billion per year, while the cost of absenteeism in the professional workforce costs $24 billion annually.

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The group that reported the best overall well-being in 2012 was physicians. The bill for sick days for the physicians’ group comes in as the second least expensive, costing an estimated $247 million per year. The group with the lowest annual bill for absenteeism was the agriculture group, costing $160 million dollars.